Friday, 15 August 2014

Passing the Torch to the Youth

You probably know what Sochi 2014 means. You probably know what London 2012 and Rio 2016 mean. But what about Nanjing 2014? Not many people are aware that the Olympic movement organises games for teenagers – the Youth Olympics. And as one international sports festival (the Gay Games in Cleveland) comes to a close another (the 2014 Youth Olympics) opens in Nanjing, China.

The Youth Olympic Games (summer and winter) are restricted to athletes from the age of 15 to 18 (those aged 14 are eligible if they reach 15 before 31st December of the Youth Olympic year). This highlights one of the many anomalies and inconsistencies in IOC ruling in that there have been many athletes who have competed at the main Olympics before they were 14!

The youngest lgbt Olympian certainly wouldn’t have qualified. At the Innsbruck Winter Olympics in 1964 figure skater Ondrej Nepela competed less than 2 weeks after his 13th birthday. Ironically, he would have qualified for the Youth Olympics (had they been held) in 1968.

The idea for the Youth Olympics has been around for decades but the International Olympic Committee didn’t create an official games until 2007. These are the host cities of the summer and winter Youth Olympics :

Summer 2010             Singapore
Winter 2012                 Innsbruck, Austria
Summer 2014             Nanjing, China
Winter 2016                 Lillehammer, Norway
Summer 2018             Buenos Aries, Argentina.

During the London 2012 Olympics a lot was made of the fact that London was the first city to host the summer games 3 times. Indeed it was, but Innsbruck beat London to the first 3-time host record by hosting its third Winter Olympics earlier that year.

Even though many in the lgbt community don’t recognise or question their sexuality until after their teenage years there hasn’t been (to my notice) any Youth Olympians who were “out” as lgbt when they competed. However, it is possible to name the first out athletes from both the summer and winter Youth Olympics – Tom Daley and John Fennell, respectively.

The age restriction at the Youth games also means that British diver Tom Daley was able to compete in 3 Olympics in less than 5 years. When Tom competed in Beijing in 2008 he was 14. The first Youth Olympic summer games were held in 2010, so he qualified to compete there as well. Still only 18 in 2012 Tom competed in the London Olympics and won a bronze medal.

John Fennell came from a big sporting family. His father David, for instance, is a legend in Canadian sport, a Canadian football league player. In 2012 John competed in the first Youth Winter Olympics, finishing 7th in the luge contest. He came out to the Canadian Chef de Mission, Olympic star Mark Tewksbury, just before this year’s Sochi games in which he again competed in the luge.

There have been a few lgbt Olympians who would have been eligible for a Youth Olympics had they been held before 2010. Just out of my own curiosity I compiled the list below. For the purpose of this list I am applying the present Youth Olympic age criteria to the historic Olympic Games.
Berlin 1936
Dora Ratjen (Germany, athletics), 17 years.
Helen Stephens (USA athletics), 18 years.
Melbourne 1956
Susan Gray McGreivy (USA, swimming), 17 years.
Tokyo 1964
Marion Lay (Canada, swimming), 15 years.
Ewa Klobukowska (Poland, athletics), 17 years.
Grenoble 1968
Ondrej Nepela (Czechoslovakia, figure skating), 17 years.
Mexico City 1968
Karin Büttner-Janz (East Germany), 16 years.
Raelene Boyle (Australia, athletics), 17 years.
Munich 1972
Scott Cranham (Canada, diving), 17 years.
Innsbruck 1976
Randy Gardner (USA, figure skating), 17 years.
Montréal 1976
Greg Louganis (USA, diving), 16 years.
Sarajevo 1984
Edel Høiseth (Norway, speed skating), 18 years.
Los Angeles 1984 (demonstration sport)
Tine Scheuer-Larsen (Denmark, tennis), 18 years.
Seoul 1988
Jhonmar Castillo (Venezuela, diving), 17 years.
Sydney 2000
Eleni Daniilidou (Greece, tennis), 17 years.
Lauren Meece (USA, judo), 17 years.
London 2012
Tom Daley (GB, diving), 18 years.
Sochi 2014
John Fennell (Canada, luge), 18 years.

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